Dental patients develop gum disease for many reasons. Unfortunately, the most common is neglecting proper oral hygiene. Initially, gum disease starts out as gingivitis, a condition that causes gums to become inflamed and swollen. Sometimes bleeding occurs.
Gingivitis is common in 30 and 40 year olds; however, if it is left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more a severe type of gum disease, known as periodontitis, that causes gum recession and, eventually, tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the number one cause of missing teeth in American adults.
Gum disease affects more than just your teeth and gums. Recent studies have shown a link between periodontal disease and other serious health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Fort Worth dentist Dr. Nikki Green takes these concerns very seriously. At Fort Worth Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, we place a strong value on healthy gums, which means focused preventive care and prompt and effective treatment of any disease that does develop.
How Do We Find Gum Disease?
During regular checkups, Dr. Green checks for gum disease using a periodontal probe that measures in millimeters how deep the pockets are between your teeth and gums. If you have a number of pockets with measurements higher than 3 mm, this could be an indication of gum disease, where the gum recedes from the teeth, allowing bacteria to find their way underneath the gum and eat away at the supporting bone structures for your teeth.
Surgical treatment for periodontal disease falls into three general categories: flap surgery, bone surgery, and bone and tissue grafts and regeneration.
Flap Surgery – Flap surgery involves rolling back the gums and cleaning off tartar that has built up underneath. What is tartar? Tartar is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. It only takes about 26 hours for plaque to harden into tartar—this is why brushing twice and flossing once each day is so important.
Once the tartar is removed, your oral surgeon will refit your gums more tightly around your teeth to reduce the amount of bacteria that can migrate in between the teeth and gums.
Bone Surgery – If the bone around your teeth has pockets or craters, we may recommend bone surgery. This surgery is performed following flap surgery and involves reshaping, reducing, and smoothing areas in the bone where destructive bacteria can collect.
Bone and Tissue Grafts – If bone has been damaged or destroyed due to advanced gum disease, you may need a bone graft. Bone grafting is a surgical procedure in which new bone material is used to replace the deteriorating old bone.
One new process available is known as tissue engineering, which allows oral surgeons to grow new bone from existing bone fragments or synthetic bone material. Tissue engineering stimulates the quick regeneration of new bone from existing bone, which strengthens support for your teeth and prevents tooth loss.
Tissue grafting is similar to bone grafting; tissue typically is used from another area of your mouth to fill in areas where the gums have separated from the teeth.
Guided Tissue Regeneration – This procedure is used to stimulate both bone and tissue growth when the old bone is lost and is used in conjunction with flap surgery. Your oral surgeon will insert a piece of mesh material in between your gum and bone. This allows the bone to regrow properly without interference from the gum tissue.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Gum Disease?
Lack of proper dental hygiene plays a key factor in increasing the risk of gum disease, along with smoking and chewing tobacco. Patients with diabetes are also at higher risk.
Certain medications, particularly “mood” medications use to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and similar types of disorders, can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth, resulting in dry mouth. If you experience dry mouth, it is extremely important to drink lots of water, gargle with an anti-bacterial rinse, and chew sugarless gum to avoid plaque and tartar build-up.
And finally, a predisposition to gum disease may be purely a result of genetics. Since gum disease is painless in its initial stages, you may not even be aware of it. Dr. Green will let you know if you are at high risk for gum disease and create a periodontal treatment plan customized to address your unique needs.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Persistent bad breath (halitosis) can be a noticeable warning flag of gum disease. Bacteria feed on food particles left on your teeth, tongue, and gums that are not removed through diligent brushing and flossing.
Other symptoms include tender, swollen, or bleeding gums; tender gums that make chewing painful; and teeth that are separating from the gums.
It is extremely important to get immediate treatment for gum disease as it can lead to tooth loss and also been linked to other health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
Maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, drinking lots of water, flossing daily and brushing twice a day, and coming in for six-month checkups all help prevent gum disease.
Get In Touch!
If you think you may have the beginning signs of gum disease, please contact our Fort Worth dental office immediately at (817) 737-6601. We are dedicated to preserving your beautiful smile and healthy gums!